"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

King David vs. Jesus on the Topic of Enemies

Psalm 9
 19 Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph;
       let the nations be judged in your presence.
 20 Strike them with terror, O LORD;
       let the nations know they are but men.

Psalm 52

1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?
       Why do you boast all day long,
       you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
 2 Your tongue plots destruction;
       it is like a sharpened razor,
       you who practice deceit.
 3 You love evil rather than good,
       falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
 4 You love every harmful word,
       O you deceitful tongue!
 5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
       He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent;
       he will uproot you from the land of the living.

Various psalms contain appeals to God to pour out His wrath upon the psalmist's enemies. These seem to contradict the Christian stance of love towards one's enemies. Nevertheless, it is a mistake to explain away these expressions as degenerate and sub-Christian sentiments which have been permitted in the sacred canon by the principle of "progressive revelations."  Progressive revelation is not to be thought of as a progress from error to truth, but rather as a progress from the partial and obscure to the complete and clear.  A consistent Evangelical must hold that all portions of the Word of God are true in the sense intended by the original author under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even though couched in terms which may perhaps have been more comprehensible and relevant to God's people at the time of composition than in later ages.

This last line explains to me why certain Old Testament practices which a 21st century reader would find backward at the least were not out-and-out condemned as I believe they were more cultural than mandated or approved by God.  This also states why certain things that were understandable or normal back then don't have to carried on today.  I think we can move past some of the ancient mindsets such as slavery being permitted, women being property and polygyny a cultural norm.  Cultures do evolve over time. Technology changes.  It's not innovation to live in the century in which you were born.  The Taliban doesn't have to ban toothpaste so everyone can use the miswak as the Islamic prophet did.

It is important to realize that prior to the first advent of Christ, the only tangible way in which the truth of the Scripture could be demonstrated to human observers was by the pragmatic test of disaster befalling those who were in error and deliverance being granted to those who held to the truth.  As long as the wicked continued to triumph, their prosperity seemed to refute the holiness and sovereignty of the God of Israel.  A Hebrew believer in the Old Testament age could only chafe in deep affliction of soul as long as such a state of affairs continued. 

Do you ever think the same way when you see evil people triumphing while seemingly good people are suffering?

Identifying himself completely with God's cause, he could only regard God's enemies as his own, and implore God to uphold His own honor and justify His own righteousness by inflicting a crushing destruction upon those who either in theory or in practice denied His sovereignty and His law.  Not until the supreme exhibition of God's displeasure at sin, demonstrated by the death of His Son upon the cross, was it possible for the believer to wait patiently while God's longsuffering permitted the wicked to enjoy his temporary success. Nor was the longsuffering of God properly understood until Jesus came to earth to teach His love to men.

Here is a bit of Jesus' teachings as recorded in the fifth chapter of Matthew.

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Do we tend to revert back to centuries past in how we deal with enemies, live our lives today, justify what we do? Or do you think we have successfully "evolved" into better people?  Why do you think the way that you do?  What do you think about what Archer said regarding progressive revelation?  Did his commentary on this matter make sense?  Had you also noticed and been bothered at David's attitude towards his enemies when comparing them to Jesus' teaching about loving our enemies? How had you reconciled the two?

except for Bible verses, all quotes in blue are from pg. 452-453 
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr.


Amber said...

'Do we tend to revert back to centuries past in how we deal with enemies, live our lives today, justify what we do?'

I think it's our first instinct, the whole, 'God strike you down', eye for an eye attitude. It's much easier and feels more natural and satisfying on a completely visceral level to watch those who have wronged us be ground into the dirt and wiped out of existence. It makes us feel better, and more secure, to know that we were stronger and they can't come back and hurt us again.

'Or do you think we have successfully "evolved" into better people?'

I think we've learned, in general, that we can't proceed as we have in the past anymore. We've survived wars and genocides, and the message of the Gospel has, to a certain extent, sunk in in the broad strokes. It's not socially beneficial to pursue blood vendettas as the ancient societies did. That doesn't mean that it's still not our deepest instinct. Just that we've learned, for the most part, that it eventually leaves everyone dead.

'What do you think about what Archer said regarding progressive revelation? Did his commentary on this matter make sense?'

I think it makes sense. You have to lay the groundwork and build up from there. People will not change immediately, and it takes time for things to disseminate into the entire group and become a part of their thoughts.

'Had you also noticed and been bothered at David's attitude towards his enemies when comparing them to Jesus' teaching about loving our enemies? How had you reconciled the two?'

Noticed it? Sure. But I don't see any need to reconcile the two. David was a man. He wasn't even a particularly good or nice man. Was he better than Saul? Better than the majority of the kings who came after him? Sure. But he was still, above all else, the secular king of a secular country. That's what wanting a king like everybody else did to the Jewish nation. They got a king and a nation, just like everybody else. And that meant a king who had people assassinated when it suited his needs. A king who waged war and destroyed enemies and had faults like anyone else. Jesus is God. He is perfect man, and the final revelation of God's 'design', and even then we still can't grasp all of it. So David's attitude towards enemies is completely human and expected. Christ's is divine, and asks us to overcome our (and David's) attitude, and become like Him.

Susanne said...

Amber, thanks for your thorough answers. I enjoyed them as always. I grew up with both the Psalms and Gospels and never thought to reconcile the two until about a year ago when I was reading through the Bible with Samer. Here we were talking about Jesus' "love your enemies" message and then I'd read the Psalms and read David's heartfelt, honest emotions. Of course Samer could relate more to David's desire for God to strike down the enemy. I know we all can to a great extent, but you and I don't tend to have bombers and war machines killing our people like he does. (He counts all Arabs as his people.) So that's the only time I've felt a bit of "hmmm, what to say," but then as you said David was just a man and his honest emotions were normal, not sanctified by God. I can appreciate both.

Thanks again for your reply!

elizabeth taylor said...

Jesus wants us to forgive our enemies and pray they will seek forgiveness and receive eternal life.

But then, God does say in Romans (also in Deuteronomy & Hebrews) --

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

I always thought that was interesting, especially in light of Jesus' words "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"

I guess it highlights the character of God being both perfect Justice and amazing Love/Mercy - something that I think is a stretch to completely wrap the brain around.

I tried to email you today Susanne, but not sure it worked!

Lat said...

If past hardened fans/disciples/followerers of King David were to hear this,they'll probably turn in their graves! :D Hahaha!

For all we know both David and Jesus could be having a wonderful time in God's presence and thinking how silly human being are!'If only they know what we know!' :D

I read about a survey done in the Us about racism on 3 groups.The scene was this,a black man bumped into a white man who started yelling all sorts of racial obsecenites at other. Questions were posed to people who witnessed it who said that it was jusfiable what the white guy did,the 2nd and 3rd group who heard and read it in the news disagreed with the behaviour of the white man.So you see King David may believe he did the right thing for his time and Jesus according to his.And what's amazing is,both attitudes of this high ranking men may be correct for all we know!

Susanne said...

Elizabeth, I agree! It's hard to understand perfect justice yet mercy and love. I totally see what you mean. I have a hard time trying to explain that to people who are justice-driven. I think I tend to be more mercy-driven except when it comes to America's enemies. Go figure.

It seems Jesus wanted us to practice love and mercy and leave the avenging up to God who works in His own good time. God is longsuffering and gives plenty of opportunity for repentance. I think Jesus wants us to not try to take justice/vengeance into our own hands, but leave that to God. It really IS freeing to live that way. Maybe not normal, but freeing. :)

Thanks for your comment!

Susanne said...

Lat, you're so funny! :-D Well, it never bothered me. I find David's attitude very real...very human...very most everyone who has ever lived. :)

My dad said David spoke this way, too, because he had such zeal for God. It was almost like "God, look what they are saying about you? LOOOK! You need to stop them from blaspheming you." Almost like David was zealous for God to the extent that He wanted God's enemies destroyed for this reason.

Anyway..your comment was cute and made me grin. :-D